Category Archives: Turkey Revolution

Of Gobblers and Woodpeckers

Gobble Gobble Gobble

Gobble Gobble Gobble

The shrill sound of gobbling echoed through a deep tract of national forest in the Pineywoods of East Texas.

As my friend and guide on this hunt Derek York worked his box call at least five gobblers sounded off in the distance.

“This is awesome!” he said.

Indeed.

Derek York sets up on a decoy in one of the areas where there are enough eastern turkeys to offer a limited hunting season.

The eastern wild turkey was essentially eliminated from East Texas by the 1980s.

A combination of poaching, habitat degradation and more poaching left these great forests barren of its most vocal and regal game bird.

Restoration efforts that began in the 1980s helped boost numbers but they never quite got to where they need to be.

A recent new theory of taking excess birds from other states and releasing them into highly managed corridors larger numbers than before is seeing some success.

Limited hunting access is available in spring and I was getting to see the results of the hard work by members of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and others.

The author scopes the area for turkeys while testing out his new ALPS Blind Bag. He was able to comfortably carry all the gear he needed into this remote tract.

We never bagged a bird that day but I did see a hen running full blast across a hill. A few seconds later a coyote came down the same path and was undoubtedly hunting for an early Thanksgiving dinner.

Derek hit his call and the young predator came down the hill toward us but it did what all coyotes do.

It moved into a downwind position, smelled us and retreated quickly.

On the hike out I noticed a sign that noted there was a red-cockaded woodpecker colony on site. This endangered species needs the type of open, savannah-like forest that wild turkeys do. What is good for the turkey is good for red-cockaded woodpeckers.

A colony of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers benefits from turkey conservation.

A few feet away from the sign I saw turkey tracks.

An eastern turkey track on a trail in East Texas. How cool is that?

It has been my contention that if we get turkey habitat and conservation efforts right the entire forest will benefit.

The public has had a hard time getting behind a tiny woodpecker species few have seen. But there are many turkey hunters who spent millions of dollars and exert huge effort conserving their chosen quarry.

I believe the public will latch on to the turkey conservation message if it is presented properly.

People think wild turkeys are fascinating and if we let them know good turkey habitat helps even the most endangered of wildlife maybe they will support things that help them like controlled burning and increased anti-poaching education.

Gobble Gobble Gobble

I can’t get that out of my head along with the desire to go back into those woods and get a glimpse of a majestic eastern gobbler and take in all of the sights, sounds and smells of some of Texas’ most pristine habitat.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Touching Hearts For Turkey Conservation

“Holy smokes! It’s a turkey!”

A 16-year-old girl wearing a retro Metallica shirt could not believe her eyes.

“I’ve never seen a turkey. He’s so big,” she said.

The young lady was referring to a hefty golden-breasted gobbler we had displayed at Eco-Fest at Shangri-La Botanical Gardens in Orange, TX. The tall, docile bird was strutting his stuff and drawing a crowd.

She was not the only one that was shocked to see a turkey.

Hundreds came by to see it and every one of them left hearing that wild turkeys are the epitome of a wildlife conservation success story.

They also learned East Texas is seeing a return of eastern turkeys due to the efforts of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the hunter-founded National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

Our Wild Wishes® program grants wildlife encounters to children with a terminal illness or loss of a parent or sibling. We are mentoring many of them to be conservation ambassadors.

Eleven-year-old Jaxon sat in with the big gobbler and told passers-by about wild turkeys and had lots of fun making turkey calls to incite gobbles.

And if that didn’t get them the baby turkeys did.

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Ana enjoyed showing Eco-Fest attendees the turkey poults.

We brought two newly hatch bronze-breasted poults and they absolutely blew away everyone who saw them.

“Their wild cousins will be born shortly out in the woods, deserts, swamps and mountains of America. If we want wild turkeys to thrive then we need to make their habitat healthy and do our best to restore them in areas where they are missing,” I told one gentleman.

I’m not saying he shed a tear when I let him pet one of the poults but he was definitely moved.

The wildlife conservation community needs to bring more people in if we want to secure the future for not only wild turkeys but hundreds of other species and their vanishing habitat.

And that will require moving the hearts of the public.

Legendary wildlife host and zoo director “Jungle” Jack Hannah once told me that you must move the heart before you change the mind when it comes to wildlife. He said this while telling kids from our Wild Wishes® program about the value of zoological facilities to conservation and giving props to excise taxes on sporting goods funding everything from game wardens to land acquisitions.

In my opinion, hunting-based conservation groups have done great work in the field but have missed in moving the heart.

I want to conserve turkeys because I grew up in a family that hunted for its food and dreamed of the day I would one day see wild turkeys in the field.

As a youngster there were virtually none in the Pineywoods where I grew up due to poaching, lack of natural fire and habitat loss. Now, groups like the NWTF are helping bring them back.

I first encountered a wild turkey on a day lease in Llano in the Texas Hill Country and since then have had deep reverence for America’s greatest game bird.

Many people left Eco-Fest thinking turkeys were amazing too and were armed with more information about the positive aspects of turkey conservation.

We need to reach a broader audience with a pro-conservation message in ways that people have never considered.

Bringing a big gobbler and some poults to a community event did that and having kids trained up to talk turkey (in Jaxon’s case literally) made people think.

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Jaxon had a great time getting his turkey “Tom” to gobble for the crowds.

Me and my wife Lisa have dedicated our life to helping hurting children and training them to be wildlife conservationists. We believe these kids are not the next generation of conservationists.

They are the NOW generation.

We have just begun this Turkey Revolution and will unveil many more projects spearheaded by these wonderful young people for not only turkeys but many species.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

Rio Grande Turkey!

Cruising down the back roads of Kerr County, TX is an interesting experience.

The majority of wildlife spotted is exotic and much of it ranging beyond the confines of high fenced hunting ranches. Axis deer, blackbuck antelope and aoudad are more are prevalent than even native whitetail.

I was looking for wild turkeys, the Rio Grand variety in particular as I am on a quest to get the Grand Slam (Rio Grande, Merriam’s, Eastern and Oceola subspecies) by camera this year.

It started off super slow two weeks ago with a trip to the area surrounding Palmetto State Park near Luling, TX.

I saw a lone turkey at about 200 yards but we could not get it to come any closer despite calling.

My rule for this project is the pictures must be magazine quality. In other words up close and full of detail.

Just as the sun began to peek out of an early morning haze I spotted three turkeys on a hill. Fellow wildlife photographer Gerald Burleigh stopped the truck and my friend and fellow turkey fanatic Josh Slone jumped out and started calling.

I ran down below the bird’s line of sight, walked up to a bush and shot a few pics.

Then down the fence line came a loud gobble.

I spun around to see two large gobblers trying to figure out how to get over the fence to get to the hens that had just flown over.

Apparently these guys were so love struck (after all it is breeding season) they forgot they can you know…fly.

turkey gobble edit
One down-three to go! These two gobblers were trying to find their way over a fence that three hens had just flew over. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

This worked to my advantage as they paced up and down and I slid down about 30 yards and waited.

The birds eventually made the move and moved into range and I took dozens of shots before their pursuit of the hens continued.

It was so exciting to get these birds after so much hard work.

Getting the Rio Grande photo above took the following effort.

*Two Trips from Orange, TX to Hill Country

*28 hours total driving

*$450 in hotels and gas

*16 hours searching in the field

Since the quest began I have studied historical maps of turkey range and found there should be Rio Grande in good numbers much closer to home. The drive should be cut from six hours to about three but urban sprawl and degraded habitat on top of poaching many years ago have isolated them more than people think.

Texas has around 500,000 birds with the vast majority being Rios with a few hundred Merriam’s in the Trans Pecos and about 7,000 easterns in the Pineywoods.

Turkeys are not nearly as adaptable as whitetails.

Getting what so far is the best turkey photo I have ever taken gave me an even greater respect for those conservation-minded turkey hunters who pursue the Grand Slam and wanting to learn much more about these regal birds.

Step one was hard considering I am doing this in my “spare” time and totally on my coin to raise awareness to turkey conservation and the health of America’s forests.

But I have a feeling finding Rios will be a walk in the park compared to some of the other varieties.

I plan on pushing hard for eastern in the coming two weeks. I’ve already had two days searching for them in the national forests of Texas with no success.

I might have a line on some birds in Louisiana and as I researched that state’s turkey population I found there is a story that needs to be told.

After all people will only conserve what they care for and understand.

And that’s what this Turkey Revolution is all about-unveiling the story of America’s greatest game bird so their future and that of America’s forest is secure.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

A Turkey Revolution Has Begun!

A society can only value what it understands.

And with wildlife, understanding is only the beginning. People must find a way to appreciate wild animals enough to care whether or not they exist.

Throughout decades of research, time spent in the field from Canada to California to seemingly every corner of my home state of Texas, I have come to a conclusion.

No creature in North America is linked more to healthy forests than the wild turkey. And no creature has the potential to captivate people in all corners of the nation than these great birds.

The author was busted by this big gobbler as he tried to sneak up near a tree on his belly. These free-ranging birds on a ranch didn’t know if they were tame, wild or in between but this one showed no fear. Good thing the author’s wife Lisa was set up in an elevated position just a few yards away and caught this photo.

Whether they are the striking Rio Grandes in the Texas Hill Country, Eastern turkeys in the big woods of the Northeast, Oceloas in Florida’s swamps, Merriam’s in mountain forests of the West or Gould’s in the high deserts, turkeys desperately need healthy habitat.

All animals do of course but some have done a much better of adapting to mans’ meddling of forest management, invasive exotics and urban sprawl.

And while there are urban centers where turkeys have adjusted, for the most part unlike whitetail deer and coyotes, turkeys need primo habitat to thrive.

If we can make the woods better for turkeys, it will be better for deer and the threatened Louisiana pine snake and the gopher tortoise and a host of other native wildlife desperately needing healthy ecosystems.

The National Wild Turkey Federation and various state fish and game departments have done an incredible job of turkey restoration and enhancement but they need the public’s help.

I have begun a quest to capture quality photographs of Rio Grande, Merriam’s, Eastern and Oceola in 2019.

Hunters call this quest the Grand Slam and while I will be taking a hunt or two this year, this quest is to document with a camera these great birds and to log everything discovered along the way.

I live a stone’s throw from Louisiana and a friend recently sent photos of eastern turkeys near their home.

Photos submitted by Maris Martinez inspired the author to look at Louisiana’s turkey population.

This inspired me to look more at Louisiana’s turkey population.

As of now it sits at 60,000 but that is down from a historic high of as many as 1,000,000 birds.

What happened?

Digging into these types of stories is what this is all about it. I’m calling it the Turkey Revolution and it will encompass years of research, reaching out to the public via many media platforms and searching out stories in the field.

If you have an interesting observation on wild turkeys, perhaps see a rare color phase bird or have anything related to them to share email me at chester@chestermoore.com.

Founding father Benjamin Franklin famously opined that the wild turkey would make a better representative of America than the bald eagle.

After all eagles are scavengers he said!

While I can’t see an image of the gobbling turkey intimidating America’s enemies, I can see the story of these great birds move the hearts of the public toward wanting healthier forests and more abundant wildlife of all types.

Putting a gobbler on a flag might have been a terrible way to cap the Revolutionary War but for a Turkey Revolution that might actually be pretty cool.

Chester Moore, Jr.